A chipped tooth occurs when a section of a tooth has fractured away from the body. It can range from a severe crack along the surface or a lesser chip on the edge of the body. Both are equally dangerous to the structure of your tooth because they practically do the same thing; weaken it and expose the nerve.
Unless the damage is a minor chip, there’s no permanent way to fix it without seeing a dentist. The best thing you can do in the meantime is to address the pain and protect your tooth and the inside of your mouth to avoid further injury.
There are many reasons for chipped teeth include:
It makes sense that weakened teeth are more likely to chip than strong teeth. Some things that reduce the strength of a tooth include:
Any weakened tooth is at risk. But one study shows that the second lower molar — possibly because it takes a fair amount of pressure when chewing — and teeth with fillings are most prone to chipping. That being said, intact teeth are also subject to chipping.
If the chip is minor and not at the front of your mouth, you may not know you have it at all. When you do have symptoms, however, they may include:
While doctors don’t advise home fixes for broken teeth, there are some things you can do to protect your tooth and mouth.
If you break or chip a tooth, you should rinse your mouth with warm water right away to clean it, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Apply pressure to stop any bleeding, and place a cold compress on the area to reduce swelling.
If you can find the piece of a broken tooth, wrap it in wet gauze and bring it with you to the dentist.
If the tooth has popped out of your mouth, use a gauze pad to grasp it by the crown and place it back into the socket if possible.
If the tooth looks dirty, you can rinse it off with water. Don’t scrub it or clean it with any other solution, and don’t clean off any bits of tissue.
If you can’t get it into the socket, you can place it in a glass of milk, saline solution, or water. Try to get to the dentist within 30 minutes.
Flush the inside of your mouth with warm water, and apply cold compresses to the outside area every few minutes to keep down the swelling.
You can take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, but make sure you don’t take more than the recommended dosage.
You can also apply clove oil to the area. The oil contains eugenol, a numbing agent with anti-inflammatory properties.
If your tooth has a small chip and a jagged edge, you can apply dental wax over the edge to keep it from slicing your tongue or damaging your mouth. This isn’t recommended if you have a large chip or a section of the tooth is missing, as you could break off more of the tooth by flossing.
Many drugstores carry OTC temporary kits that contain dental wax.
Avoid chewing on the side with the damaged tooth, and try flossing around the tooth to reduce pressure and irritation.
The most common teeth to break are the molars of the lower jaw, probably due to their pointy cusps grinding powerfully into the grooves of the molars at the top of the mouth, according to a 2015 articleTrusted Source published in the European Journal of Dentistry.
However, any tooth can break with injuries that range from slight cosmetic damage to serious injuries. Deep cracks can run down to the root or from the tooth’s center to the pulp chamber, which contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue.
Cracks may not be visible, hiding inside the tooth or below the gum. Some cracks and chips have no symptoms or symptoms that may be confused for cavities, sensitivity, or periodontal disease.
In general, the deeper and wider the damage, the more extensive the treatment needed. A dentist can diagnose the extent of the damage by examining the tooth with or without a magnifying glass, performing a bite test, and sometimes using dental X-rays.
Not every crack or chip is serious enough to warrant treatment, and some are quite common. For instance, craze lines are small cracks that occur in the enamel only and are common, according to a 2014 review of the literature Trusted Source.
You’ll likely need to see a dentist for anything but the smallest cracks or chips because it’s hard to tell how deep the damage might be.
There are no effective home remedies to prevent further injury to your teeth and mouth, and the sharp edges of a cracked tooth could cut your soft tissues, causing more pain, infection, and potentially costlier treatment.
In some cases, untreated damage could lead to a root canal, tooth loss, or other complications due to infection.
While you can wait until an appointment for many types of tooth injuries, others may require emergency treatment.
If you knock out a tooth, for instance, the ADA advises that you may be able to save it if you can find it, put it back in the socket, and visit your dentist right away. It’s also considered an emergency if you’re bleeding heavily or are in a lot of pain.
Temporary broken tooth repair kits are available in drugstores and online and can be helpful while waiting to see a dentist.
Some kits include dental wax to cover jagged edges, and others contain material that can be molded into the shape of a tooth to fill in gaps left on broken or missing teeth.
These kits are only for temporary use and don’t address the deeper issues that could lead to infection, tooth loss, or other complications. They should not be substituted for proper dental care.
Treatment will depend on how big the crack or break is and where it is. Possible treatments include:
Surface lines and tiny cracks may not require treatment, but a 2019 study trusted Source indicated that cavities, a lot of pain, and X-ray evidence of a crack we’re all strong predictors that endodontists would perform restorative procedures.
If the damage is slight, a dentist may polish the surface or smooth a broken or jagged edge. This is called cosmetic contouring. They may also use dental bonding to fill in gaps and fissures.
In bonding, dentists slightly abrade the tooth, dab on a conditioning liquid, and then apply tooth-colored composite resin. Afterward, they’ll form it into the right shape. The dentist can also sometimes reattach a broken bit of tooth.
These procedures can often be done in a single visit.
A crack or chip that goes deeper than the surface will need more extensive repair. Sometimes, the crack extends down into the pulp, which may require a root canal.
During the procedure, an endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, sanitizes the inside of the tooth, and fills and seals it with a rubbery material called gutta-percha. Afterward, they’ll cap it with a filling or a crown.
While the root canal is a metaphor for all that’s dreadful and distressing, this procedure is much more routine and far less painful than it once was — now, it’s usually no more painful than getting a filling.
Molars have more than one root. If only one root is fractured, a root amputation can be done to save the rest of the tooth. This is called a hemisection. A root canal and crown have to be done on the remaining tooth.
Your endodontist may also recommend surgery to find cracks or hidden canals not caught on X-rays or remove calcium deposits from a previous root canal.
Sometimes, a root canal won’t save a tooth. For many endodontists, the depth of the crack determines how likely they are to recommend extraction. A 2019 study trusted Source found that the deeper the crack, the more likely the endodontists were to extract the tooth.
In the case of a split tooth, 98.48 percent of endodontists in the study chose to extract. A dentist may also suggest extraction if the crack extends below the gum line.
If you do have a tooth extraction, your provider is likely to recommend an implant that looks and functions like a natural tooth.
We love our patients and love to help them form healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. For more information call us today to answer all of your questions, so get an appointment today.